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Dynasty Derailed: BG girls lax falls to Clippers in semis,14-12

By Tom King - Staff Writer | Jun 4, 2023

A group of Cardinal players share an emotional embrace moments after bowing to Portsmouth 14-12 in the Division I semifinals Saturday night in Exeter. (Telegraph photo by TOM KING)

EXETER – One dynasty ended another.

The Portsmouth High School Clippers came into Division I this season bringing the bravado from their five straight Division II titles with them, and in turn ended Bishop Guertin’s string of four straight championships Saturday night, 14-12, in the Division I semifinals in raw, damp Bill Ball Stadium.

It was a very unfamiliar ending for the No. 6, 12-6 Cardinals, who were in semi re-tool mode after graduating a lot of offensive firepower from their last couple of seasons.

“Just like the Patriots, it breaks and you’ve got to rebuild it,” Guertin coach Leslie Why said, her team’s late rally just falling short. “We’re in a really great position next year.”

But this year the Cardinals weren’t able to break through against the No. 2 Clippers, despite a more competitive rematch than their regular season encounter, a 16-11 loss. It looked like this might be a repeat, as Portsmouth enjoyed a five-goal run to take a 9-3 lead in the first half before settling for a 9-5 game.

“Unfortunately, we just didn’t have everybody dialed in tonight,” Why said. “There was a lot of nerves, and seniors, oh it’s my last game…”

But it almost wasn’t, as late in the game, the Cards, who never led all night, had the Clippers on the ropes. Down 14-9, Anna Campel was winning draws, allowing the Cards to score the final three goals. Two Lauren Redfern goals with 1:38 and 1:14 left made it a 14-12 game and the Cards got the ball again on a Clippers draw violation but a shot went wide and Portsmouth got possession with 33 seconds left and ran out the clock.

“Our shooting percentage is high,” Why said. “But we needed more possessions and needed more time.”

Close, but not enough. Now the 18-2 Clippers, winners of 10 straight, will move on to face No. 1 Bedford, a 13-0 win over No. 4 Nashua South, in the title game here Tuesday night.

“They started winning drills and a few calls didn’t go our way,” Clippers coach JoJo Curro said. “We were letting that frustrate us. Then we had to take a deep breath and just play our game.”

Guertin’s game revolved around junior Anna Campel, who took over the draw in the second half but also led the Cards with six goals.

“Anna Campel just carried the whole team,” Why said. “Lights out. Showed up in the biggest way possible. … She was on the draw, and she was able to get possession, and put it in a place where we could get possession, and totally shifted the energy and the focus. She showed up in a really big way.”

Portsmouth was led by Annie Parker’s five goals while Morgan And Avery Ruhnke had three each. Besides Redfern’s two goals for BG, Kamryn Schmitt had a pair while single tallies went to Skylar Naftali and Anna Kouchalakos.

One wonders what might have been had the Clippers not turned a 4-3 game with 13:01 left in the first half into a 9-3 game nine minutes later.

“The draw rules the world,” Why said. “When you don’t win the draw, you don’t have the ball, you don’t have anything to do other than play defense.”

Cards sophomore goalie Maddy Eder-Linell had eight saves, helping to keep Guertin in the game. But Clippers freshman goalie Sage Bussiere was equal to the task with six, four in the second half and all seemingly coming when Guertin was poised to make a run.

“She made some saves,” Curro said, “that we desperately needed.”

The Cards also weren’t able to take full advantage of three player-up stretches, scoring only a goal in each when they could have had more.

In any event ,Guertin’s season ended up as a steppingstone in what the Cards hope will be a return to the top.

“There was a lot of nurturing, a lot of coaching,” Why said, noting there was some coaching help from alums to get the team up to speed. “It was a team effort to get everybody there. … We have a lot of starting returners coming back, I think we lose three.

“We got a huge amount out of this year.”

“For us,” Curro said, “it’s just a fresh start. We’re going for it.”

That will be Guertin’s rallying cry, but not until next spring.


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